I've done it. You've done it.
"Hey, is that guy still around?"
Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league that are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try and write a legacy of their own.
So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark this series.
Next up: Missouri
Blaine Gabbert, QB
Gabbert left Missouri after his junior season with two years of starting experience under his belt. The rocket-armed, 6-foot-5, 235-pounder did it as the 10th pick in the NFL draft, after throwing for more than 6,800 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 18 interceptions. The St. Louis native came to Missouri as one of the program's most touted recruits ever and made a whole lot of his potential. It was obvious during his freshman season that Gabbert was the heir to Chase Daniel, and he earned the right the following season. As a first-year starter, Gabbert earned loads of respect from his teammates for playing through a painful ankle injury courtesy of the House of Spears. In 2010 he helped Missouri win the biggest game of Gary Pinkel's career, knocking off No. 1 Oklahoma at home in front of a homecoming crowd with ESPN's College GameDay in town for the first time.
Aldon Smith, DE
Smith earned a reputation as one of the league's best pass rushers fast, sprinting to an 11-sack freshman season in 2009, a Missouri record. His production was limited in 2010 because of a broken bone in his leg, but NFL teams believed in his freakish athletic ability and upside, enough so that the San Francisco 49ers made him the seventh overall pick in last month's draft.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Raytown, Mo. native was one of the first surprises of the draft, but he'll get his chance to develop while collecting hefty paychecks in the NFL.
Missouri's top receiving duo is back and should provide Gabbert's replacement, James Franklin, with a lot of help. Both are sure-handed and won't go down easily. They were the driving force behind Missouri's passing game in 2010, which lacked a home-run threat a la Jeremy Maclin or Danario Alexander. A year of experience as relied-upon threats should be valuable, too.
In 2009, they combined for five catches and 33 yards. Last season? Try 182 catches, 1,807 yards and 11 scores. Finding a deep threat that was absent in 2010 will make it a lot easier -- their production dipped in the heart of conference play -- but both should put up big numbers again in 2011.
Will Ebner, LB
Ebner seems to continually battle injuries, but the big-hearted senior is back for a fourth season. As a freshman, he earned a reputation as one of the team's hardest hitters very early in camp. In 2009, he returned in two weeks from arthroscopic knee surgery, and in 2010 he played through a broken foot. He had just 47 tackles last season, thanks in part to being slowed by the foot injury, but he's likely to slide into a spot on the All-Big 12 team if he can finally stay healthy.
Sheldon Richardson, DT
I'd argue that no player in Missouri history has had more written about him before he stepped on campus as an official, enrolled member of the Tigers. Richardson's three-year (and perhaps longer) saga seemed to reach its natural end when he signed with Missouri as its top recruit in 2009, a member of the ESPNU150. But Richardson didn't qualify and headed to junior college in California. Then, as the nation's No. 3 juco recruit, he committed to USC but switched back to Missouri before signing with the Tigers. He's expected to be on campus in June. The athletic, 6-foot-4, 296-pounder looks like a game-changer on paper and on the limited game tape he produced during an injury-plagued juco career. Will he become one at the major college level?
Corbin Berkstresser, QB
After Tyler Gabbert's transfer, James Franklin looks like the likely successor to Tyler's older brother, Blaine. But could Berkstresser slide in front of Ashton Glaser to become Franklin's backup, or perhaps earn time if Franklin struggles? The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder from outside Kansas City will have to make up a big experience gap between himself and Glaser, a redshirt sophomore entering his third season in the program. Berkstresser didn't come to Missouri this spring like fellow 2011 signee Wesley Leftwich, whose speed wowed coaches in his first 15 practices as a Tiger.
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